When I was a kid, I occasionally came across a Topps baseball card that stood out to me. For instance, one was a series of cards portraying stages of Babe Ruth’s life and one celebrated Rogers Hornsby’s .424 batting average in ’24.
Incidentally, the Rajah AVERAGED hitting over .400 for a period of four seasons! He had won his first of six consecutive batting titles (and seven overall) in 1920, then flirted with the .400 plateau the next year at .397. Then came his four-year spree. He hit .401 in ’22, had a terrible slump the next year, “only” hitting .384. Next came his .424 season followed by his .403 mark in ’25!
Here are some notes on two other special baseball “thrill cards” from 1961 which I still recall:
Commemorating Harvey Haddix’s perfect game in ’59: I still can’t believe that a baseball commissioner changed the rules on what constitutes a no-hitter and that Haddix, author of the best pitched game in baseball history was stripped of perfect game status.
Here’s more on Haddix and his gem. In 1954, in a game versus Milwaukee, Joe Adcock whistled a wicked line drive back at the box. The ball collided with Haddix’s knee, putting him out of action and, he said, causing him to never again be as effective as he had been prior to the injury. Well, almost never.
On May 26, 1959, again facing the Braves and Adcock, Haddix, complaining of feeling lousy, took to the mound. Shaking off illness, he mowed down the potent Milwaukee lineup, retiring 36 men in a row, being perfect for the equivalent of a game and a third. His Pirates had collected 12 hits but failed to reach Lew Burdette (who also went the distance) for a run, forcing the game into the 13th inning.
In the home half of the inning, perfection ended swiftly as the leadoff batter, Felix Mantilla, reached on a Don Hoak throwing error. Eddie Mathews followed and the slugger uncharacteristically, but justifiably, laid down a bunt, moving the runner into scoring position. That led to an intentional pass being issued to Hank Aaron. Next up was the man who five years earlier had hurt Haddix–Joe Adcock.
On a 1-0 pitch, and with his no-hitter still in place, Haddix threw what he meant to be a low-and-away slider, but he got it up a bit and over the plate. Adcock deposited the ball over the fence in right-center. Aaron thought the ball hit off the fence, so he didn’t bother to run the hit out. Instead, he cut across the mound after touching second and headed to the dugout. Adcock made it to third base before he was ruled out for (technically, but not literally) passing Aaron on the base paths. Therefore, only the run scored by Mantilla counted.
The next special Topps card featured an event which, when I first read the brief info written on the card, I couldn’t believe. It focused on a 26-inning pitchers’ duel in which both men went the distance. The game was witnessed by a mere 4,000 fans, and who knows how many hung around for the entire game. Today’s fans might guess that this marathon game went on for six? seven? eight hours? causing spectators to tire and go home. The truth is the game ran 3 hours and 50 minutes which, and I’m guessing here, is shorter than nearly every Yankees versus Red Sox game of recent years.
The information I came across in the book The Old Ball Game about the 26-inning marathon runs on and on–fitting given the circumstances of the game itself. Therefore, I’ll add more material in my next blog.